The nature of the public sector and how we interact with it has changed immeasurably since. But the core principles of public service remain identical: to support, protect and invigorate every citizen’s life, from beginning to end. The people, and their journey, remain at the heart of the challenge.
Of course, 75 years is a long time. Beveridge produced his report as war raged across Europe, at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval. Today we are more concentrated in urban areas, we are more likely to pursue further and higher education, our medical needs are more multifaceted, and we expect higher quality services, better tailored to individual needs and with a level of personalisation. At the same time, the backdrop to public service has changed. The state and its processes are infinitely more complex, while interventions such as devolution and localisation, or consolidation across different departments and bodies, have shifted how services are provided. And all this is set against a backdrop of tightened budgets and pressure for the public sector to do more with less.
It is not only the public service landscape that is changing. The nature of public service delivery is changing too, with individuals and organisations rising to the challenge and utilising new technologies and processes, from 3D printing to speech-to-text recognition. Data is being stored digitally, while organisations are making inroads in social media and changing the way they use and access information. Our schools no longer rely on chalk; our doctors work with tablets to diagnose and treat.
At the heart of this is a drive to improve efficiency. Often the public sector is criticised as bloated or slow, but in fact it possesses a healthy appetite for innovation. There are some astonishing examples of lateral thinking and of extraordinary people doing extraordinary work.
Indeed, in my time at Canon, I’ve seen first-hand how public bodies are using smarter information management and technology to support knowledge exchange, co-operation and community engagement. Our Journey of a Lifetime program makes clear how established thinking is being challenged at all stages, from birth to later life.
To take one example, doctors are making use of increased accessibility of high-quality medical technology like Digital Radiography systems to enhance patient safety, improve outcomes and provide vital help quickly and cost-effectively. Equally, teachers are getting to grips with tools like 3D printers to offer inventive learning experiences and empower students to express themselves creatively.
Now is an exciting time to be involved in public service delivery. Clearly the public and private sectors can do great things when working together. But there are certainly ways to further increase efficiency and ensure stronger collaboration, better use of resources and, ultimately, a better outcome for all.
At the heart of that is efficient procurement, so that accessing the tools I mentioned is not onerous. Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks are designed to achieve this, as they offer public bodies of all shapes and sizes including schools and charities pre-tendered contracts with a range of suppliers – a sort of “one stop shop”.
In January, Canon was delighted to be awarded “supplier status” in three lots for the new CCS RM3781 framework. This has enabled us to offer all public sector organisations nimble access to our extensive portfolio of imaging products, software and services, and at the same time reduce costs by around 40%.
If the public sector is to meet its original ambition and deliver personalised and relevant services, especially in light of financial, demographic and societal pressures, its organisations require the most contemporary tools and resources. And they require them straight away, rather than after a time-consuming procurement process.
The impact of this CCS framework is already being felt. In Beveridge’s days, schools might have relied on pencils, but these days printing and imaging software is integral to teaching. Yet there’s no logic in teachers wasting time sorting through brochures to find the best deal. That was the thinking behind first of the three lots, as it offers technology via an easy-to-use online catalogue that allows customers to compare different machines and specifications. It’s perfect for small organisations with limited resources.
We’ve already seen significant uptake by schools and had tremendous feedback. “The new machines… are easier to use and cheaper than previous equipment,” one happy school told us, while another simply said Canon had offered them “the best deal by far”.
Local authorities are also taking advantage of these frameworks. Our second lot offers a wider range of multifunctional devices and is designed for slightly bigger organisations that want to manage their network printers in house, and need a bespoke print solution under one management service. It matched the needs of Leeds City Council, and has enabled them to better manage costs and tackle inefficiencies, so helping them safeguard vital community services.
Meanwhile we’ve helped Lambeth Council lower their overall printing cost by 30% and save £150,000 at a time when they really needed to reduce costs. That was thanks to our third lot, which is designed for large organisations to outsource network printing to a trusted supplier without compromising efficiency and security.
Canon is far from the only organisation working to enhance efficiency in public service delivery. But as these examples make clear, CCS frameworks can enable improved procurement in a changing public sector and have a positive impact on service delivery, saving time and money.
Ultimately, they are a vital mechanism to prevent busy organisations jumping through hoops to secure the systems they need, and help them get the most out of the private sector. They offer a way to streamline the delivery of services so the goals that underpin the public sector can take priority, and the needs of the people can come first. 75 years after this blueprint was set out, this is as important as ever. I’m certain Beveridge would heartily approve.
Find us on stand 314 and come and join our speaking slot at 11.55 in Seminar Theatre 2.